03:47 PM EDT 09/16/2014

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Connecticut School Shooting

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Daughter of Slain Sandy Hook Principal Pays Tribute to Mom on Wedding Day

Erica Lafferty, Daughter of Slain Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, Marries

Originally posted 07/14/2013 02:55PM

Erica Lafferty, the youngest daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in December's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., recently marked a joyous occasion.

On July 6, she married fiancé Christopher Smegielski, at her mother's lake house in the Adirondacks.

That morning, , Lafferty, 27, paid a visit to her mother's grave. And she wore her wedding dress.

"I wanted to let her know how much I missed her," Lafferty says. "No daughter should ever have to do that on her wedding day … and I make sure she is always part of every day, like she always had been."

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Credit: Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee/Reuters/Landov
Newtown Donations: $7.7 Million to Be Divided Among Families

Newtown Donations: $7.7 Million to Be Divided Among Families

Originally posted 07/12/2013 08:00AM

A community foundation given the task to divide up donations received after the Connecticut school shootings made preliminary recommendations on $7.7 million that call for giving $281,000 to each of the families of the 26 children and school educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year.

The families of 12 surviving children who witnessed the Dec. 14 shootings would each get $20,000; two teachers who were injured would get $150,000 between them.

The foundation was asked to divide up $11.4 million that was raised with the help of the United Way. The foundation previously decided to divvy up $7.7 million to the families and survivors and to have committees decide on uses for the remainder of the donations, including whether to use some of it for future mental health care and other needs.

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Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/Getty
Judge Accepts Aurora Shooter's Plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

Judge Accepts James Holmes's Plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

Originally posted 06/04/2013 12:25PM

A judge on Tuesday accepted James Holmes's plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, setting the stage for a lengthy mental evaluation of the Colorado theater-shooting suspect.

Holmes is accused of opening fire in a packed Denver-area movie theater last summer, killing 12 people and injuring 70. He is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The mental evaluation could take months.

Holmes's lawyers repeatedly have said he is mentally ill, but they delayed the insanity plea while arguing state laws were unconstitutional. They said the laws could hobble the defense if Holmes's case should ever reach the phase where the jury decides if he should be executed.

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Life After Newtown Shooting: Families Share Their Stories

Originally posted 04/03/2013 05:00PM



They still reach for little hands that are no longer there. They dream of their warm hugs, hoping not to wake up.

For parents of the 20 first-graders from Sandy Hook Elementary School whose lives were cruelly cut short on Dec. 14 their grief knows no bounds.

"We've been given an impossible life to live," says Jessica Rekos's mother Krista. "I don't know how to live my life without my little girl."

At home, many of their siblings keep their memories alive. Daniel Barden's sister, Natalie, is keeping a journal of stories for her brother. Josephine Gay's two older sisters look through old videos to listen to her laugh.

And when Noah Pozner's sister, Sophia, recently put together a Lego spaceship, she announced: "Noah helped me put it together."

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Sandy Hook Killer's Home Contained Large Arsenal of Weapons

Sandy Hook Killer's Home Contained Large Arsenal of Weapons

Originally posted 03/28/2013 11:40AM

Sadness and shock still continue to build over the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.

After a three-month investigation, the state prosecutor overseeing the case said Thursday that Adam Lanza, 20, murdered 26 people within five minutes of storming into the school before turning a gun on himself. Wednesday night state police night briefed families of the victims on what was recovered from Lanza's home and car, among other findings.

Among the chilling inventory, reports The New York Times, were a large array of ammunition and weapons that included rifles, knives and samurai swords, as well as damaged computer equipment, journals and a newspaper clipping of a school shooting at Northern Illinois University.

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Credit: Alessandra Petlin; Inset: REX USA
Tony Lusardi III Struggles to Move on After Losing Girlfriend in Sandy Hook Shooting

Tony Lusardi III Struggles to Move on After Losing Lauren Rousseau in Sandy Hook Shooting

Originally posted 03/03/2013 11:00AM

Initially it was Lauren Rousseau's smile that caught Tony Lusardi III's attention on a dating website. He sent her a jokey message, she sent a "ha-ha-ha" back, and a month later they had their first date at a wine bar.

"We hit it off right off the bat," says Lusardi, 30, a sales rep for a tech company. "I am a giant, awkward nerd when I first meet people, but at one point I said, 'Can I kiss you?' " Rousseau, 30, a substitute elementary school teacher, turned red and said, "Yes." When their lips locked, says Lusardi, "I knew she was perfect for me. I thought, 'She's the one.' "

About five weeks later, they made it Facebook official: They were "in a relationship." Young, smitten and feeling they had all the time in the world, 13 months later they were just beginning to hatch plans to move out of their respective parents' homes. "We were thinking we would move in together, get a dachshund – we wanted to name it Pork Chop – and see what happened."

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Gabby Giffords to Meet Privately with Sandy Hook Families | Gabrielle Giffords

Gabby Giffords to Meet Privately with Sandy Hook Families

Originally posted 01/04/2013 08:00AM

Gabrielle Giffords, the former member of Congress from Arizona who was gunned down at a Tucson shopping center two years ago – and then courageously fought to recover from her injuries – will meet privately Friday with the families of the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn.

The event will be held at a private home and is not open to the public.

Giffords, 42, sharing a Facebook post from her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, after the Dec. 14 school shootings, said that the time was now to begin a national dialogue on strengthening gun control. This week, she and Kelly met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch gun-control proponent, on the issue.

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Sandy Hook Students Return to Classes at New School

Connecticut School Shootings

Sandy Hook Students Return to Classes at New School on Thursday

Originally posted 01/02/2013 11:05AM

When Sandy Hook students return to a new school on Thursday, they will find their setting looking nearly exactly like their previous classrooms, right down to the pictures on the walls.

Before the move, some teachers even took photos of their old classrooms at Sandy Hook to better prepare their new classrooms and offer frightened and traumatized students some comfort as they try to get back to normal after the Dec. 14 shootings that left 27 people dead, including their beloved principal Dawn Hochsprung, ABC News reports.

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Credit: Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee/Reuters/Landov
How to Cope with the Sandy Hook Shootings

Sandy Hook Shootings: How to Cope

Originally posted 12/23/2012 06:00PM

The Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 innocent children and six heroic elementary school faculty members were gunned down last Friday, is particularly difficult for people – even those thousands of miles away from Newtown, Conn. – to process, according to mental health experts.

"This tragedy is so deeply affecting the national psyche, reminding us of 9/11, because of its assault on Norman Rockwell's vision of America," psychiatrist Carole Lieberman tells PEOPLE.

Friday was proclaimed a national day of mourning for those lost a week ago, with a moment of silence called for at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, as 26 churchbells rang in Newtown and elsewhere. In addition, First Lady Michelle Obama sent an open letter of condolence to the town, saying the entire nation "is holding you in our hearts."

But how do those directly involved with the tragedy find the strength to cope?

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Credit: Courtesy Jen Maksel
Inside Story: How Bryce Maksel Escaped School Shooting with Four Others

Bryce Maksel's Mom Tells How He and Four Others Ran from Shooter

Originally posted 12/21/2012 07:00PM

Jen Maksel knows she's one of the lucky ones. Her 7-year-old son, Bryce, escaped last Friday's carnage by fleeing hero teacher Vicki Soto's classroom when the gunman looked away. But that doesn't mean it's been easy. Her son lost three of his best friends, several classmates and two of his beloved teachers that day.

"I'm completely exhausted," she tells PEOPLE this week as Newtown, Conn., sees funeral after funeral, tiny coffin after tiny coffin. "It's just so sad."

Last Friday morning Maksel, 42, was just drifting off to sleep after working an overnight shift then putting her kids on the bus when her phones began ringing off the hook. Before she could answer them, a neighbor began pounding on her front door yelling, "There's a school shooting at Sandy Hook!"

She jumped in her car and headed to the school.

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